Monday, April 6, 2009

Jason Hammel Dealt to Rockies

Jason Hammel was traded to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday as the Rays manage to work around the handcuff of having three pitchers out of options - and thus, three pitchers they would have been required to carry on the 25-man roster.

Those pitchers are Lance Cormier, Jeff Niemann, and Jason Hammel. With Hammel out of the picture, it appears, at least for now, that Jeff Niemann will take the role of 5th starter and Lance Cormier will fill in in the bullpen.

The Rays received right-hander Aneury Rodriguez in the deal. Rodriguez posted a 9-10 record with a 3.74 ERA, 139 strikeouts and 40 walks in 156 innings last season for Class A Modesto and is expected to be a AA-pitcher in the Rays organization in Montgomery.

The move was not unexpected for the Rays - knowing they could not retain both Hammel and Niemann going into the season, especially with David Price waiting in the wings. Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, said he had a good idea of the club's intentions for quite some time.

"Colorado was aggressive about Jason, and I felt early on like that was what we were going to end up doing," Friedman said. "It just took some time to work through . . . a couple of weeks ago, I felt confident that this was the move that was going to happen."

And indeed, it is the move that has happened. For now, Cormier will be in the pen, and Niemann will take the hill as a fifth starter. At this point, it is likely only a matter of time before Niemann gets pushed to the pen in favor of Price.

Niemann, who stands 6 feet 9 inches, has made great strides this spring in commanding his curve ball and keeping his fastball low. These improvements to his mechanics have made him the logical choice for the Rays' 5th starter. Now only time will tell if that decision will pay dividends.

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